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Drastic Drop in Illegal Grow Busts Shows Pueblo, Colorado Is Legalization’s Model Town

The same place that is sending local teens to college for free with cannabis tax revenue has seen only one grow-op bust this year, compared to over 30 last year.

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When asked about legalizing cannabis in their state, city or town, local lawmakers and journalists often givre the same ‘wait and see’ response. The tired response supposes some event of magical proportions will appear in Oregon, Washington, or some other legal weed state that will definitively suggest whether recreational legalization will work or not. But if legislators really want to know what legal weed could look like, they should check out Pueblo, Colorado - America’s finest cannabis success story.

You may have heard of Pueblo, County for their decision to use over $400,000 from municipal pot tax to pay for teenagers to attend local colleges or their talks of opening the nation’s first cannabis museum, and now, the weed-friendly county is reporting a huge drop in police busts of illegal grow houses.

According to The Pueblo Chieftain, the county has only had one grow-op bust this year, a stark contrast from the over 30 raids that turned up thousands of plants last year. Around this time last year, Pueblo saw a series of high profile black market residential cultivation busts after residents started complaining in droves to local law enforcement.

But now, one year further into legalization, the unregistered growers have either concealed their businesses, shut down shop, or moved out of Pueblo. If you ask local police officers, it’s a whole lot of the latter two options. 

“I think that the regulations in Pueblo County are known now, that our law enforcement action did what it was supposed to do, which was gain voluntary compliance by others,” Pueblo County Undersheriff JR Hall told the Chieftain.

Hall also said that the voluntary compliance has come from small-time home growers who have since gained a better understanding of the legalization law’s limits and restrictions. 

After a high profile bust in March of 2016, Hall says that neighbors across the county began calling in suspected black market grows. Since the rash of raids that followed, things have been looking up, and while Hall and his squad are still on the lookout for illegal busts, the Undersheriff says those calls have all but stopped coming in. 

Across the country, no one thought that legalization would be easy, but lawmakers, police, residents and industry insiders in Pueblo County have all come together to show the rest of the nation that, even with a few hiccups, recreational cannabis legalization is entirely possible, and could bring unheard of benefits - just ask the kids that started their first semester of free college at Pueblo Community College this year.

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